Unbeaten Linlithgow Rose building for next year

Calum Smith scores the first goal. Picture: TSPL
Calum Smith scores the first goal. Picture: TSPL
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LINLITHGOW ROSE boss Mark Bradley admitted he’s already working towards next season after seeing his team complete their league season without losing a match.

Saturday’s 2-1 win over Kelty Hearts meant the Super League champions dropped just six points all term, their 19 wins and three draws producing a top-flight record of 60 points.

Rose suffered just two defeats all season, with both of those coming in the finals of the two biggest cup competitions – a 1-0 Emirates Scottish Junior Cup loss to Auchinleck Talbot and a 3-0 East of Scotland Cup setback to Bonnyrigg Rose last midweek.

Boss Bradley, whose side added the Dechmont Forklift League Cup and Fife & Lothians Cup to their league title, insisted: “We now have to focus on next season even with the this one hardly dead. We’ll have the players in tonight to talk about next year and see who – if any – are leaving.

“Then we start pre-season training in mid-July, giving the players four weeks off. They have done a magnificent job this season and a lot of them are running on empty so they deserve a good rest.

“Willie Wilson has told us that he is retiring from football and he’ll be a huge miss for us. He’s done a great job since coming here and obviously we want him to stay. He’s been a terrific role model for some of our squad but I’m hoping to have a talk with him about some other things.”

On his team’s achievement of going through a league campaign unbeaten, Bradley said: “It was good to get the job finished and what a season it’s been. We’ve set records that’ll never be beaten because of league reconstruction so it’s been a delight to set standards that’ll be there for years to come.

“I know we lost the two big cup finals but we have to be very happy with what the club has achieved.

“The goals against Kelty on Saturday were great with Calum Smith hitting another special strike. He won the goal of the season with his effort against Lochee in the game where we actually won the title and Saturday’s was nearly as good.”

Saturday’s clash, which took place at Crossgate Primrose’s Humbug Park due to Kelty’s Central Park undergoing maintenance, saw a first half of few chances.

The second half, though, was a different story. Linlithgow made the breakthrough in the 58th minute with a fabulous goal from Calum Smith. The ball pinged around the penalty box before finding the feet of Smith at the left-hand corner of the box. He looked up, shifted his feet and drove the ball into the far corner for a stunning strike.

Four minutes later, Rose doubled their account. Full back David Dunn took a free-kick wide right and found the head of Colin Strickland, leaving him the easiest of jobs to find the gaping net. Kelty pulled a goal back with five minutes remaining, former Hibs striker Damon Gray pouncing on a rare mistake by the Linlithgow defence to rifle the ball past David Scott.

Full back Willie Wilson revealed his decision to quit this summer, saying: “I’ve been playing my football at a good level now for 25 years and I feel it’s time I gave my family some time.

“I’ve won just about everything there is to win in the Juniors, with this season seeing me finally getting my hands on the Super League title.

“Linlithgow have been very good to me and I’ve enjoyed myself more than ever this season. I’ve won a couple more cups and the league to add to my Scottish Cup winner’s medal when I was at Bathgate.

“I’m retiring now – but that’s not to say in four weeks time I’ll be missing my football enough to say ‘let’s give it another season’”.

Kelty Hearts: Fleming Courts, Forbes, Winiarski, Ross (Ketchum), Ritchie, Kay (Hynd), Smith, Gray, Reynolds, Penman (Bowman). Subs: Lunn.

Linlithgow Rose: Scott, Gibson, Dunn, McKenzie, Ovenstone, Nelson, Ruari MacLennan, Roddy MacLennan (Fleming), Strickland (Manson), Smith, Wilson. Subs: Shirra, Bradley, Hay.